This Note is part of a series of Notes on key City issues to update City Council at the start of its 2018 – 2022 term.

Issue description

The City has been at the forefront of promoting access and human rights through innovative and best-in-class human rights policies, programs and services. The City’s commitment to advance human rights guides the work of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights (EDHR) and is a blueprint for action for all City divisions. These activities, along with the regular analysis of complaint and consultation trends and the monitoring and tracking of broader global trends guide the Human Rights Office in identifying current and emerging human rights related issues and developing relevant resources, strategies and supports.

The City has recognized an increase in sexual harassment complaints, investigations and requests from individuals seeking to consult with the City’s Human Rights staff. These increases and an increase in the number and complexity of complaints investigated by the City is due, in part, to new investigations linked to the 2016 passage of Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which increased legislative requirements for investigations into workplace harassment – specifically sexual harassment.

The rise could also be attributed to increases in global awareness on this issue through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, general rights awareness, legislative requirements and compliance and complainants who cite multiple grounds in a single complaint and consultation.


The City is modernizing its complaints management system to improve human rights responsiveness at the City, making the system more effective and efficient. The Human Rights Office is scheduled to provide City Council with its Annual Human Rights Report (2017-2018) in the first half of 2019.

To support the creation and maintenance of inclusive workplace culture, the City has recently re-launched the “Know the Line” anti-sexual harassment educational campaign.


The City’s Human Rights Office administers an arms-length internal dispute resolution program through its policies and procedures to support the creation and maintenance of inclusive workplace culture and the provision of services that are free from harassment and discrimination. The Human Rights Office also builds internal capacity for divisions on these important issues. In this way, the Human Rights Office assists in readying the organization to be an effective leader and respond to any potential internal human rights issues appropriately.

The program also satisfies the City’s obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The Human Rights Office provides responsive and effective risk management on these issues for the City. The goal of the program is to enable inclusive employment practices and service provision through policy development, education and dispute resolution of harassment and discrimination complaints. The Human Rights Office also assists members of the public who have concerns or complaints regarding accessibility, discrimination, harassment and hate activity.

One example of how the Human Rights Office builds internal capacity on human rights issues is the 2015 comprehensive sexual harassment campaign that the Human Rights Office implemented for City staff called “Know the Line.”  The campaign included posters, a dedicated web page, a communications toolkit and a management toolkit to support City divisions to address issues that may arise as a result of increased awareness of harassment issues. The “Know the Line” campaign helps employees reflect on their behaviour and challenge inappropriate comments and conduct that constitutes sexual harassment.

Actions or Plans

The City has re-launched the “Know the Line” anti-sexual harassment educational campaign, leveraging the 2015 campaign. This campaign features revitalized web content, a new poster series with infographics, dynamic information cards, an engaging eLearning program, and additional online resources including an updated Manager’s Toolkit and Facilitator’s Toolkit.

These tools are aimed at communicating the City’s ongoing commitment to a safe and respectful workplace free from sexual harassment, and that management is required under the City’s policy to respond to any complaints about what is or could reasonably be perceived to be sexual harassment and contact the Human Rights Office.

Date Action
October 2016 City Council adopted an amended Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy
March 2016 Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2016 receives Royal Assent
March 2015 Ontario Government released an action plan “It’s Never Okay” with the objective of strengthening laws to ensure that our workplaces are free from sexual violence and harassment.